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Russian winter by Daphne Kalotay

Russian winter (original 2010; edition 2010)

by Daphne Kalotay

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6754814,175 (3.67)21
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Surprisingly well-constructed historical novel set in Stalinist Russia, with the added evocative setting of the Bolshoi Ballet. Either the structure (letting slip the slightest clues at exactly the right times) was really smart, or I'm a really dumb reader. ( )
  jjaylynny | Nov 12, 2016 |
Russian Winter – Daphne Kalotay
4 stars

This debut novel takes an interesting look at the personal consequences of cold war history.
Nina Revskaya is an aging, crippled, former Bolshoi prima ballerina. She has arranged to auction her jewels as a donation to the Boston Ballet. Ostensibly an act of charity, Nina is actually attempting to lay the ghosts of her past. The novel is structured around the intersection of two story lines; the contemporary story involving the jewel auction and Nina’s memories of life in the USSR under Stalin.
Although, I found this book to be extremely slow moving, the historical setting and artistic details were enough to hold my interest. Nina was not always a very likable character, but I found her to be completely believable. The tragedy of her past is caused as much by the extreme narcissism of a great artist as by the repressive policies of her government. Kalotay does a great job of describing the social dynamics of an elite ballet company within the context of the privations and paranoia of communist Russia. The contemporary story line was less compelling. It was annoying when the commonplace issues of the contemporary characters intruded on the more dramatic storyline.

( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
I was 125 pgs in and cut my losses. Didn't captivate me. Too much detail about academia that was not of interest to me.
( )
  anglophile65 | Mar 8, 2016 |
3 and 3/4 stars.

This book had its faults. For me it was a bit slow to start and the pace seemed to lagged in places. But, it was a good read. The story was interesting, there were a few plot twists (which I loved, having thought I was clever enough to figure it all out beforehand), the vivid descriptions painted wonderfully detailed images in my mind's eye and I simply enjoy reading it.

Passing it along to a friend of mine who is a lover-of-all-things-Russian hoping she will enjoy it as much as I did. ( )
  mkclane | Jul 31, 2015 |
If you like historical fiction I would recommend this book. It has some intrique, a love story, and some history about life in Russia after WWII. ( )
  INorris | Apr 20, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
Despite its engaging suspense, pristine character development, and jolting plot twists, the novel’s sentences can feel rambling and comma-heavy. Certain passages burst with unnecessary asides and needless details, which at times can bog down this otherwise gripping conflict. Other times, some characters’ behavior is so melodramatic as to make them seem cartoonish. These hammy expressions are distracting, as if to force readers to feel for these characters when, in actuality, such empathy comes naturally to a writer like Kalotay.

The length of the novel also makes for a small but noteworthy letdown—the climax is spectacular but disproportionate to a 459-page story. It comes slowly, meticulously, and fantastically—but then it quickly goes, with a resolution that also feels too short.

Still, Russian Winter is a fantastic first novel. The drama of Soviet oppression isn’t laid on too thick, and the hidebound world of the Bolshoi ballet, though pertinent to Nina’s life, doesn’t suffocate the story. Instead, human emotions breathe human qualities into this novel: passion, pain, love, jealousy, insolence, regret, loneliness, loss.
added by sduff222 | editThe Rumpus.net, Lindy Moore (Feb 7, 2011)
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Silloin opin tietämään, ettei rakkaus ole vain ilon lähde tai leikki, vaan osa loputonta elämän tragediaa, yhtä lailla sen ikuinen kirous kuin kaikkinielevä voima, joka antaa sille merkityksen.
Hänen miehellään oli vanhanaikaiset käsitykset jalokivistä: mies osti niitä vaimolleen tunnustukseksi siitä, mitä ei osannut kauniisti ilmaista.
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The afternoon was so cold, so relentlessly gray, few pedestrians passed the long island of trees dividing Commonwealth Avenue, and even the little dogs, shunted along impatiently, wore thermal coats and offended expressions.
A song keeps running through my head, the one about the husband missing his wife like a wave misses the shore – over and over again.
She senses, for the first time, how far away one can be from one’s own life, how contentedly distant. The gaping enormity of the universe, its endless possibility…She feels it, an aura, an inkling: the illusion of absolute freedom.
‘How can you be this way? How can you act as if nothing is wrong’ He walked away, because of course it was dangerous to do what I was doing. Later that day, my husband came and sat down next to me and said to me, so quiet, he said, ‘Don’t you see, I have to believe in him.’ He meant Stalin. He said, ‘I have to believe. Otherwise, how can I get up out of bed in the morning?”
...there are only two things that really matter in life. Literature and love
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When Nina Revskaya puts her remarkable jewelry collection up for auction, the former Bolshoi Ballet star finds herself overwhelmed by memories of her homeland, and of the events, both glorious and heartbreaking, that changed her life half a century earlier. It was in Russia that she discovered the magic of dance and fell in love, and where, faced with Stalinist aggression, a terrible discovery incited a deadly act of betrayal—and an ingenious escape to the West.

Nina has kept her secrets for half a lifetime. But now Drew Brooks, an inquisitive associate at a Boston auction house, and Grigori Solodin, a professor who believes Nina's jewels hold the key to unlocking his past, begin to unravel her story—setting in motion a series of revelations that will have life-altering consequences for them all.
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Former Bolshoi ballerina Nina Revskaya auctions off her jewelry collection and becomes overwhelmed by memories of her homeland, the friends she left behind amidst Stalinist aggression, and the dark secret that brought her to a new life in Boston.

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Average: (3.67)
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